Another drought, more famine. One of the early and formative conversations I had shortly after arriving to work in Kenya was with a judge who encouraged me to take note of the living conditions of the people that he saw in the pastoralist regions when he traveled to remote courts: “it is hard to believe that they are Kenyans” and yet lived in such difficult circumstances.
During the last drought in 2008-09 we had the infamous Maize Scandal, the first big new scandal for the Grand Coalition, and as yet unresolved. How will the Government of Kenya respond this time, or is this just an issue between the outside humanitarians and the locals and not worth notice in Nairobi?
Kenya can best mitigate the devastating effects of recurrent drought by strengthening the livestock sector so that it becomes a viable money-based economy, and improving pastoral food and water security, say aid officials.
“Responding to drought has largely remained a reactive mechanism over the years,” Enrico Eminae, Action Aid Kenya’s Northeast Regional Coordinator, told IRIN. “There is also a lack of a coordinated approach by CSOs [civil society organizations] and government in addressing drought-related issues at all levels.”
According to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) Secretary-General, Abbas Gullet, drought mitigation should focus on addressing vulnerability factors through activities such as dam construction and investments in irrigated farming in marginal areas.
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“The story of drought and famine is almost becoming a cliché in Kenya,” noted Damaris Mateche, environmental security analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Nairobi. “Despite the existing drought early warning systems in the country, drought disaster response mechanisms and coping strategies remain miserably wanting. More often, drought and famine situations degenerate into dire humanitarian crises before the government takes substantial action.” (emphasis added)